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GPs are praised for major turnround in MMR uptake

GPs have won praise for their part in achieving the biggest quarterly rise in MMR uptake since the safety scare began.

UK coverage of the vaccine among two-year-olds soared 1.3 per cent to reach 81.1 per cent in the three months to December 2003, official statistics reveal. Some areas saw even bigger increases with Wales recording a 2.4 per cent rise, East Midlands 2.3 per cent and the North West 2.2 per cent.

The increase follows a 0.9 per cent rise in the previous quarter.

Scientists at the Government's Health Protection Agency said the biggest factors in the long-awaited turn-around were GPs' efforts to convince parents of the vaccine's safety and widespread publicity over measles outbreaks.

They believe the worst of the crisis is now over, but warned GPs to expect a rocky recovery with further dips to come. Latest figures from the more up-to-date sentinel monitoring scheme show a decline in uptake in 16-month-old children.

Dr Natasha Crowcroft, head of immunisation at the agency, said: 'There may still be some fluctuations in the figures in the coming months, but the overall trend is upward.'

GPC negotiator Dr Andrew Dearden welcomed the figures, which come a week after Government statistics revealed the proportion of GPs qualifying for higher vaccine target pay has crashed by 7 per cent in the past two years.

'Any improvement is better than where we were but we're still a long way off the 95 per cent coverage needed to prevent disease outbreaks,' he said.

By Emma Wilkinson

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